Monday, May 21, 2018

Together Forever

Together Forever
Orphan Train, Book Two
Jody Hedlund
(Bethany House Publishers)
ISBN: 978-0764218057
May 2018/352 pages/$15.99

Will the Mistakes of Their Past Cost Them a Chance at Love?

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she'll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

Read an excerpt.


Jody Hedlund is the author of over a dozen novels, including Love Unexpected, Captured by Love, Unending Devotion, The Preacher's Bride, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award for historical romance. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in social work. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at


Oh my. I have thoroughly enjoyed Jody Hedlund's books since I discovered her debut novel (The Preacher's Bride) way back in 2010, and with each series I think, "Now this is her best!" The Orphan Train series kicked off with a free novella, An Awakened Heart, followed by With You Always, and now Together Forever seared my heart. I immediately liked Marianne and Andrew, but of course, it is the children and their plight who touched me the most. I cannot begin to fathom what it must have been like to be placed on a train and sent across the country and then lined up in front of a town full of strangers who looked them over for strengths and flaws as if they were examining produce or animals for their stock. Hedlund expertly develops the characters and story, making the novel impossible to put down. As always when children are involved, there are humorous scenes as well as heart-wrenching moments. A tender romance and a compelling message of faith further enhances this compelling story. An inspiring tale of loving and letting go, Together Forever belongs on your keeper shelf.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Jody Hedlund and Baker/Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



1. What is the inspiration behind your Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the orphan trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans who were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped west by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled midwestern states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories is focus on women who have been overlooked within the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, each book will focus on a different aspect of the orphan train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

2. How did you come up with the idea for the second book in the series, Together Forever?

Since the first book in the series centers around the jobless and homeless adult women who rode the orphan trains, I decided for this second book to show the orphan train experience through the eyes of placing agents who worked for the Children’s Aid Society.

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), started by Charles Loring Brace, was the major orphan placing organization in New York City from its inception in 1853 well into the twentieth century. CAS hired numerous ministers, single men and women, as well as married couples, to escort orphans from the East to their new homes in the West. The agents spent weeks and months on the road caring for the children, all while trying to place them in loving homes. Thus the main characters in Together Forever take on the role of the placing agents, giving readers a glimpse into the lives of these dedicated men and women who wanted to make a difference in the lives of homeless children living on the streets of NYC.

3. What special research did you do in writing Together Forever?

In researching the roles of CAS placing agents, I came across one of the most well-known placing agents, Clara B. Comstock, who traveled west with children from 1911 to 1928. During her years as a placing agent, she made seventy-four trips and wrote about her experiences. I drew from her notes about what it was like before the trip, from the clothes the orphans were given to the detailed lists of supplies and food she packed. She also wrote about what it was like during the journey west and what happened once they arrived at their destinations—including an incident where she was quarantined with a young five-year-old boy who contracted diphtheria.

At the end of her life, Clara Comstock said this about her experiences: “The work was a great adventure in Faith. We were always helped and grew to expect kindness, deep interest and assistance everywhere. A sense of responsibility was keenly felt by all the workers. My life has been greatly enriched by the varied experiences found in everything the Children’s Aid Society has done. It is an honor to have followed from afar, the founder of this work.”


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